Which microphone should I buy?

Gear Jul 05, 2020

In summary, get the Rode NT-USB Mini for a USB mic and the Shure SM58 if you have an XLR interface.

This is by far the most common question I get asked, almost on a daily basis. On calls and podcasts I've managed to get my audio sounding really good and people want to know how they can get the same sound. Often, the biggest frustration people have when starting their podcast is how to get the best audio possible, and thus, which mic they should buy.

The thing is there is no best microphone. It entirely depends on your needs, circumstances and what you're actually looking for in a microphone. However, there are a few different options I always recommend to people and I hope that you'll fit into one of these categories.

Option 1: You want something that sounds good that is as simple as possible, a microphone you can plug straight into your laptop and it will work.

Buy this mic 👉🏼 Rode NT-USB Mini (£99)

This is the type of person that asks me most often and I always recommend the Rode NT-USB Mini. In fact, during the past few months where everyone has gone remote, I've recommended this to 5 people and 5 people have bought it. Each one of them has been happy.

For under £100 you get a superb microphone from an audio company that I own almost their entire range. As far as development of new products for professionals and prosumers, Rode is the best out there (in my opinion).

You plug it straight into your laptop and you're ready to go with crisp sounding audio. However, I would highly recommend getting this microphone off your desk on a boom arm as it's likely to pick up sounds of you typing on your desk and you won't get the most out of your investment.

At this price point, most people would consider the Blue Yeti microphone

I don't personally own this microphone, but I'd suggest watching my friend Patrick Tomasso's video on how easy it is to start a podcast in 2020, where he gives a mini review of the NT-USB Mini (recorded on the NT-USB Mini).

Here's another review of the Rode NT-USB Mini from Podcastage.

Option 2: You've heard about the benefits of an XLR microphone and you want to invest in quality, but not break the bank.

Buy this mic 👉🏼 Shure SM58 (£85)

This was the very first mic I started out with and I still use it today. It's absolutely legendary in the music industry and for good reason. The build quality is fantastic, it's versatile, portable and has a really rich sound that you'll struggle to go wrong with. The best thing is that it only costs £100. However, you'll have to pick up an XLR cable and an audio interface (I use the Zoom H6 but I'd recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 ~£130).

Before you decide which option to go down or how much you spend on upgrading your microphone, you should watch this video by Podcastage - a superb resource for everything podcasting on YouTube. He goes into detail about why you should upgrade your gear, the law of diminishing returns over £100 and the impact that each upgrade with. This is the best video I've seen on the topic.

I'll also mention that I've recently switched from the Shure SM58 to the Rode Procaster as my main podcast microphone. Watch the comparison below and you'll see there is very little difference between the two. I switched for a few reasons (note; these are not good reasons for buying a new microphone).

  • I wanted to try out something different than my trusty Shure SM58
  • It looks better in videos
  • It's heavier so works better on my Rode PSA-1 boom arm

Option 3: Money is no problem and you want to get the best sounding audio possible.

Unfortunately, there isn't a straight answer for this.

As mentioned in the Podcastage video, once you get to spending over £100 on a microphone, it is really difficult to notice a difference in audio quality. If you're an audio geek then you can go into the specifics of how the audio sounds and the type of sound profile you're looking for.

One thing consider when you're buying a new microphone and the budget you set out for it is that most people are listening to audio in less than ideal conditions.

People are listening to audio in less than ideal conditions.

This means that people are listening on the train with headphones, on a device / service that has compressed that audio and are thus very unlikely to be able to tell the difference between a £100 microphone and a £3,000 microphone.

I'd love to give you a recommendation on what microphone to buy if money is no object, but I think if you're prepared to drop a large amount of money you probably going to have a good idea of what you want or put in a lot more preparation than an article that says 'which microphone should I buy?'.

I also think that if you're starting a podcast, focusing on making the content engaging and enjoyable is far more important than having exceptional audio quality. That being said, I think with the £100 Shure SM58, or even the Rode NT-USB Mini, you can get an excellent sounding podcast.

James McKinven

I'm the founder of Striqo and host of the Marketing Mashup podcast. My goal is to get as many people using video and podcasting in their marketing machine.

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